HC Deb 11 November 1980 vol 992 cc168-70
2. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received on the delay in payment of the increase in pensions.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Reg Prentice)

Representations in the form of letters and pre-printed postcards have been received from a number of individuals and organisations.

Mr. Foulkes

Does not the Minister agree that pensioners have already suffered as a result of cuts by this Government and others? Can he give an assurance that even this Government will not stoop so low as to introduce prescription charges for old people?

Mr. Prentice

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to talk about pensioners suffering, he had better look at the arithmetic. The uprating will be 16½ per cent. against a cost of living increase which was measured at 15.9 per cent. in September and which is tending downwards. Therefore, this will be the second year running in which this Government will have increased pensions more than prices.

Mr. Paul Dean

Will my right hon. Friend confirm, so that the Opposition can take note of it, that what he has just said means that the 16½ per cent. increase in pensions starting on 24 November will more than restore the value of the pension for the 54-week period since the last increase? If that is correct, does it not clearly demonstrate the Government's active concern for the elderly and other vulnerable groups at a time when the working population, quite rightly, is being asked to make sacrifices in its living standards?

Mr. Prentice

My hon. Friend is right in every particular. The fact that the increase will have been more than the increase in prices for the second year running is of substantial benefit and should be set against the politically motivated rhetoric that we keep hearing about Government cuts.

Mr. Orme

Is the Minister aware that under the previous Labour Government's legislation, pensioners, the disabled, the unemployed and the sick would have received their increase yesterday—10 November? It is sheer robbery that, as a result of the Social Security (No. 2) Act, pensioners will lose £12.30 over two weeks.

Mr. Prentice

The right hon. Gentleman made a number of mistakes there. First, he referred to the wrong Act—a small point. Secondly, any Government, Labour or Conservative, would have dealt with the creeping forward of the date. The date in 1975 was 17 November, which would have been adjusted, anyway. Thirdly, his arithmetic is wrong. He should not compare a Christmas bonus for a single, retirement pensioner with that for a married couple. The Christmas bonus is £20 for a married couple.